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Sexual harassment is about power

It's easy to imagine that sexual harassment is based around sexual desire and lust, right? It makes sense that a harasser may simply be out of control and victimizing others on those grounds.

However, experts warn that this often is not the case. In a lot of instances, sexual harassment is actually about power.

These experts say that the true thing that a person is trying to inspire is fear. This is why supervisors are often the ones who are abusing those who work for them. They are trying to show that they are in charge and they can do whatever they want. This may be to strengthen their positions, or it could be simply because they enjoy using the power their positions give them in this way.

One doctor who studied harassment said that just a mere 25 percent of the sexual harassment cases actually were meant to be seductions, where the harasser was trying to start an intimate relationship with the other person. Additionally, she claimed that merely 5 percent involved blackmail and bribes -- such as a boss saying that a worker would get a promotion in exchange for a sexual relationship.

All of the other instances, she said, were just people asserting their own power.

No matter why sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, it is certainly illegal. Workers are often frightened to speak up, feeling there is nothing that they can do. They do have significant legal options. If you've been victimized in the workplace, make sure you know what these are, what protections the law gives you and how to proceed.

Source: New York Times, "Sexual Harassment: It's About Power, Not Lust," Daniel Goleman, accessed Nov. 10, 2016

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